With her jaunty dissection of the sex life and the private grooming habits of the novel’s 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel, Charlotte Roche has turned the previously unspeakable into the national conversation in Germany.
Since its debut in February, the novel (‘Feuchtgebiete’, in German) has sold more than 680,000 copies, and is the biggest selling book on Amazon anywhere in the world.
The book is a headlong dash through every crevice and byproduct, physical and psychological, of its narrator’s body and mind. It is difficult to overstate the raunchiness of the novel. Wetlands opens in a hospital room after an intimate shaving accident. It gives a detailed topography of Helen’s hemorrhoids, continues into the subject of anal intercourse and only gains momentum from there, eventually reaching avocado pits as objects of female sexual satisfaction and – here is where the debate kicks in – just possibly female empowerment. Clearly the novel has struck a nerve, catching a wave of popular interest in renewing the debate over women’s roles and image in society.
Reviews of Wetlands
- ‘Profoundly unsettling’ Rowan Pelling, Daily Mail
- ‘If you ever wondered what you’d be like if you weren’t shy, polite, tolerant, modest, sexually repressed, logical and constrained by modern standards of hygiene, this may be the book for you…This is not a beautiful or perfect book, but an enterprising one, and its cumulative effect is admirable…Our bodies mean a lot to us – even the asshole, about which far too little has been written. Every writer needs to claim a bit of territory, and assholes are there for the grabbing. Boldly, Roche takes them for her own’ Guardian
- ‘“Wetlands”, in the tradition of Plath’s “The Bell Jar”, is a remarkable novel about mental illness that has been mistaken for feminist literature’ Alice O’Keefe, New Statesman
- ‘The cause of the fuss is the novel’s extreme obscenity – though “obscenity” doesn’t quite catch the particular, pungent flavour of the thing. “Grunginess” is nearer the mark’ Adam Lively, Sunday Times
- ‘Literary news this week suggests that when it comes to women writing about sex, reviewers are still reacting in the same way as Dr Johnson to his walking dog, surprised that it’s being done at all. So hats off to Charlotte Roche, who has managed to give both the “Sunday Times” and the “Guardian” the willies by cheerfully confessing to consuming pornography with her husband and starting her book “Wetlands” with a graphic discussion of hemorrhoids’ Lisa Hilton, Spectator
- ‘Maeve Binchy is famous for her unique humour and insight; Cecelia Ahern is popular for her unlikely twists and touches of magic; Charlotte Roche has a different formula for success – haemorrhoids, hairy armpits and halitosis, mixed together into an unlikely erotic pot-pourri’ Irish Independent